What we learned from Friday Formula 1 practice for the 2023 Mexican Grand Prix

Behind Verstappen, the battle for outright pace appears to be very close in conditions and through the types of corners that somewhat negate the RB19’s usual strengths. In long-term practice at the end of FP2, the McLaren team, through Lando Norris, looked particularly strong.

Elsewhere, Charles Leclerc and Lewis Hamilton led the way for Ferrari and Mercedes respectively, while Aston Martin faced a second difficult Friday in seven days after struggling at the US Grand Prix.

So here’s everything we learned yesterday in Mexico.

Today’s story

Verstappen topped the Formula 1 race with a time of 1 minute and 19.718 seconds, ahead of surprise Alex Albon and his FW45 by just 0.095 seconds. Albon surprised even Williams with his pace early in the weekend at the track where the team arrived feeling pessimistic about competing for points. Perez came in third place, ahead of Norris and Leclerc.

But while teams began to understand how the maximum downforce combinations and additional bodywork cooling vents worked in the notoriously thin air here, and there were also plenty of slides and spills on low-grip surfaces, the bigger story of the opening session was the shared fate of the five rookies (other than Oscar Piastri ) Participants.

Ferrari rookie Oliver Biermann finished 15th in place of Haas’ Kevin Magnussen, while Isaac Haggar finished 17th in the AlphaTauri car driven by Yuki Tsunoda. Jacques Doohan was right behind while Pierre Gasly sat in FP1 for the Alps, while Frederic Vestey finished 19th in George Russell’s Mercedes.

Theo Bourchier’s outing in place of Valtteri Bottas for Alfa Romeo was not carried out, as a warning appeared on the dashboard and coincided with a long feel of the throttle pedal early in FP1, with the problems recurring three more times as he emerged from the pits to try and set a lap time.

Photography: Andy Hone / Motorsport pictures

Formula 2 star Biermann impressed for Haas in his first outing in FP1

The Haas team ended up very happy with Biermann’s performance alongside Nico Hulkenberg in the opening session, with team engineering director Ayao Komatsu saying he “didn’t put a foot wrong”. The 18-year-old particularly impressed Haas with his knowledge of his procedures, as well as the feedback he provided to his engineers.

Red Bull plans to fill both RB19 cars with its own simulator driver – and Formula E World Champion – Jake Dennis and Hager for the Abu Dhabi FP1 to meet its rules requirements in this regard. Team principal Christian Horner said in the press conference between FP1 and FP2 that Red Bull feels the season final session “tends to not offer a great deal of car preparation value” for race drivers.

So, when it came to yesterday’s FP2, Verstappen and Perez remained together aboard their dominant machines as they have throughout the 2023 sessions so far, with their efforts in Friday’s second session following the established themes of the season.

This meant Verstappen led the way again, while Perez came in behind Norris and Leclerc. Bottas – whose car has now been repaired – also demoted the local champion to fifth.

The Haas team ended up thrilled with Biermann’s performance alongside Nico Hulkenberg in the opening session, with team engineering director Ayao Komatsu saying he “didn’t put a foot wrong”.

But Perez was unfortunate that he “had a yellow flag on my lap” – more on that later – because it meant he didn’t get a fresh boost to the soft tires when he tried again a short while later midway through FP2. This second effort ended up running dangerously wide of Peraltada. Perez concluded that as a result he “did not get a good read on the soft during one lap” yesterday.

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There were two notable elements in FP2. The first was rain in the opening minutes and then back for the closing stages – not enough to cause any laps to be lost but a reminder that overnight rain here can wash away whatever rubber falls.

This can lead to grain in the left front tyre, which will take the penalty here, while also requiring teams to monitor tire setup closely in qualifying with an important development factor on the track. When racing comes, drivers will need to put on as much rubber as possible to reduce tire overheating and thus additional graining along with the typical deterioration concerns.


Photography: Sam Bloxham / Motorsport pictures

Perez “didn’t get a good read on the soft track during one lap” yesterday

The other key takeaway from FP2 was that Aston Martin finished Friday down for the second time in a week.

Fernando Alonso ‘lost the car’ during his efforts to simulate mid-session qualifying on the soft tyres, causing the yellow flag to come out – with the Spaniard showing a bit of irreverence there given he spun so heavily and completely between Turns 9 and 10, an incident he tried hard to downplay. In further comments (see below).

But with Lance Stroll losing much of FP2 with a left front median stuck on the other AMR23 and Aston mechanics swinging a big hammer trying to remove it, it has all left the green team in a state of limbo in preparation for qualifying.

Average tire speed over the long run gives McLaren an early boost against Red Bull

On typical long runs ending in FP2, the Motorsport.com averages have to be treated with more caution than usual due to the low grip surface and low downforce settings that result in a lot of minor gasps for the drivers.

The late rain also meant drivers struggled to maintain the best tire temperature as the ambient temperature had dropped at that point as well. So, all the drivers from the leading teams had a lot of abnormal times that we had to deduct as a result.

But looking at the long-term FP2 averages – with all the usual caveats they include regarding engine modes and fuel levels – these look very encouraging for McLaren, which has become Red Bull’s closest rival in recent times.

Oscar Piastri came into the weekend saying that McLaren expects this place to “not particularly suit” the MCL60, but Norris essentially said the same thing in Austin and he was right in the mix there.

McLaren's early one-lap pace saw them just 0.12 seconds behind Verstappen with Norris in FP2.

Photography: Steven T/ Motorsport pictures

McLaren’s early one-lap pace saw them just 0.12 seconds behind Verstappen with Norris in FP2.

Thus, McLaren’s early one-lap pace, which was just 0.12 seconds behind Verstappen’s with Norris in FP2, chimes with the Briton outpacing his friend by an average of 0.274 seconds on the medium tires they finished late in that session.

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What further reinforces McLaren’s performance is that Norris’ average came in 15 laps, while Verstappen finished no fewer than 11 laps full of fuel on board.

The hard tire averages – with those being the only two consecutive compound teams set to be the pick for best race tire here, as well as a potential start stint on the soft – looked much better for Red Bull. . In these contests, Perez outperformed Piastri by an average of 0.576 seconds, over 10 and 14 laps respectively.

Although it looks close to the race pace at this stage, Red Bull will rest with the settings adjustments before the start of the second free practice to fix the problem of “the front tire collapsing in one way or another,” according to Helmut Marko, which the team witnessed in the limited stage. Long innings in Friday’s hottest FP1 opener.

At the end of FP2, Hamilton’s mid-range time was 0.326 behind Norris and 0.052 seconds behind Verstappen – his average of 1 minute 23.338 seconds was recorded over eight laps.

Judging by the long runs on the medium tyres, Mercedes is right in the mix at this stage too – at a place where the thin air is covering up the W13’s remaining drag deficit in front of the Red Bull and so the Black Arrows were targeting some specials here.

At the end of FP2, Hamilton’s mid-range time was 0.326 behind Norris and 0.052 seconds behind Verstappen – recording an average of 1:23.338 seconds over the eight-lap period.

In this it is worth noting that Hamilton’s pace fell significantly from 1:22 seconds to 1:24 seconds by the end. Meanwhile, Norris was able to hold a more consistent 1:23s, while Verstappen was lapping faster at the end of his long run than at the start.

Both Hamilton and Russell were unhappy with the balance and grip levels on board their cars

Photography: Steve Etherington/ Motorsport pictures

Both Hamilton and Russell were unhappy with the balance and grip levels on board their cars

Mercedes feels that Hamilton and Russell were unhappy with the levels of balance and grip on board their car, although such statements are fairly typical of both at this stage.

The team is now analyzing the results of the FP2 preparation trials, and will likely select the ones they feel were the best for the rest of the weekend when qualifying later today.

Ferrari’s best long-term average time (both Leclerc and Carlos Sainz ran this rubber in FP2 race data collection practice) was 1m23.885s for Leclerc. This is 0.873 seconds off Norris’ best time. The red team, which quickly fixed a hydraulic problem on Sainz’s car that left him without power steering during the first practice session, feels it has a gap to the front at both lap and race pace.

Aston concluded that his day was “not a true reflection” of his standing in Mexico’s standings according to team manager Mike Crack, due to his lack of qualifying simulation.

Additionally, the team’s only FP2 outing came from Alonso thanks to a stuck Stroll wheel issue. Alonso produced an average of 1 minute and 24.458 seconds on the medium tyres, which is 1.45 seconds slower than Norris and the slowest of the 2023 prototype racers.

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As he beat Perez to fourth in FP2 and felt that Alfa “were very good overall” even after Pourcher’s misfortune, Bottas’ average on the medium tires over 12 laps was 1m24.041s ahead of Alonso’s.

When it comes to expected race strategies at this stage, one-stop operation is likely to be the quickest and most popular – although teams will look to see how much granularity there is early on before committing to either medium or difficult road approach for the latter. Task or tasks.

what are they saying

Verstappen says he had a better start to the weekend than expected

Photography: Mark Sutton / Motorsport pictures

Verstappen says he had a better start to the weekend than expected

Max Verstappen: “We look competitive, which is good. But there are always some things to improve. Overall, I think it was a positive start to the weekend, maybe a little better than I expected. I think that’s always a good thing. You can see that the track is very slippery.” As always, it’s also very difficult to manage tires in the long run, so there are some things we can work on, I think [qualifying] “The competition will be incredibly intense during one lap, but the pace of the race again is a different story.”

Lando Norris: “A good start to the weekend, it’s close. We’ll keep trying and improving but it’s a good start. I think overall we start the weekend well. We always have a good idea of ​​where we’re going to start the car, and it’s usually not far from where we finish, so There’s not much to gain over the weekend.

“We haven’t shown the most competitive performance over the long term, so we’ve been focusing on trying different settings.” Lewis Hamilton

Charles Leclerc: “It was a positive day overall as we were able to test everything we wanted to. We tried all the tires available and worked a little bit on the settings even if obviously it’s only Friday there is still some work to do for tomorrow’s qualifying and the race. We will “By analyzing all the data we have collected, we will work to take a step forward.”

Lewis Hamilton: “It was a challenging day for me today, the car felt very different than it did in Austin a week ago and we need to understand why. We haven’t shown the most competitive long rides, so we’ve been focusing on trying different setups. The track here comes with its challenges, but we We did well here in previous years. Therefore, we are not yet where we want to be before tomorrow, but we will work hard overnight to improve and make the necessary changes.

Fernando Alonso: “It was a good day, after all.” [I have] Feeling good in the car, trying to understand more about the new aerodynamic package. We focused a lot on long distances, lots of gas in the car all day. We didn’t go looking for lap times, so let’s see tomorrow where we are.”

Aston concluded that it had its day

Photography: Mark Sutton / Motorsport pictures

Aston concluded that her day was “not a true reflection” of her place in the Mexican hierarchy

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